What started several weeks ago as a small-scale protest by employees from New England’s Market Basket grocery stores is now being seen as “a fight that encapsulates everything that is wrong with corporate America” (BBC).
While Market Basket employees are not the only American workers raising their voices, their goal is not higher wages and better benefits, as was the case in the recent fast food strikes. Instead, they are risking their jobs and potentially the future of Market Basket—which analysts estimate is losing millions of dollars per day—for “a worker and community-oriented corporate culture that goes against the grain.”
The 71 Market Basket stores attract and keep customers for two reasons: their prices tend to be 15-20 percent lower than their rivals, and they offer exceptional customer service—in part because the chain pays above minimum wage and offers both health benefits and bonuses. All workers display their years of employment on nametags. I’ve shopped in many of their stores during the past eight years, and it’s not uncommon for “Marie: 31 years” to simultaneously scan my groceries and offer her opinions on my choices: “Don’t you love this ricotta? I’m so glad we started carrying it.”
So why are Market Basket employees risking their careers? Why are they joining with shoppers to rally by the thousands? On the surface, they are trying to reinstate the previous CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas (recently ousted by his cousin), who found a way to value both his staff and customers while making a profit. But a five-minute conversation with one of those employees will reveal that something much bigger is going on.
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